About two-thirds of textiles are made from petrochemicals, which are derived from fossil fuels. Polyester is the most widely consumed synthetic fiber, and it’s used in about 67% of all clothing (source: Forbes). Which means you are most likely wearing oil-based clothing right now.
The problem with fossil fuel-derived synthetic clothing is that once it is made, it can never be unmade. Instead, 85% of clothing is sent to landfills or incinerated (source: Business Insider). A shockingly low percentage of clothing is recycled, and since most clothing has at least one synthetic component (e.g. buttons or thread are usually synthetic even in a cotton t-shirt), most clothing will never completely decompose.
While government regulators are attempting to create policies that will effectively change the global fashion industry, and consumers are trying to manage their closets in a more sustainable way, the fashion industry continues to overproduce and promote overconsumption.
The fashion industry is global, largely unregulated, extremely complex, and very opaque and yet there are small fashion brands that are tackling the environmental crisis by thinking and designing their products in a thoughtful way – by starting with the garment’s end-of-life.
Brands like UNLESS Collective, which makes plant-based streetwear designed to leave no plastic waste, are flipping the fashion design narrative by starting with the garment’s end of life – what will happen to the garment when it is no longer wanted? Will it be recycled, respun or composted…or landfilled?
It is true that no garment can be worn forever. It is also true that most of our garments will last forever. By designing for end of life, we acknowledge that our clothes wear out and can no longer be repaired or mended and must be replaced. Designing for a garment’s end of life means that we become thoughtful about what happens to a piece when we no longer wear it. We are not simply wishfully donating our old things, hoping that one person’s trash will be another’s treasure. Instead, we are closing the loop, returning our clothes to the ground from which they grew.
As consumers, we can demand that fashion companies design with the end in mind, to work within a regenerative, circular system instead of a linear one. And we can ensure that our clothes are no longer destined for landfill by learning about how and from what our clothing is made. The need for change is urgent and we must act now.
A personal stylist helping women curate circular closets because you can be stylish and sustainable.